Head of Embattled UK Climate Center Steps Down Amid Misconduct Allegations
December 3, 2009 12:50 AM
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Phil Jones is stepping down as director of the the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, one of the world's leading climate research centers, after emails were released implicating him in academic misconduct.
(Source: University of East Anglia)
Director admits emails about apparent warming deception "do not read well"
University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit is one of the world's
primary sources for climate data
analysis and a close partner to the
UN's International Panel on Climate Change
. Its researchers have published much of the work that has helped the theory of anthropogenic causation to global warming to gain acceptance in much of research community.
Last week the CRU was the
subject of a cyberattack
. Hackers released a 160 MB archive of stolen information from the center, including a number of emails from the center's director, Professor Phil Jones.
Some emails were merely embarrassing, such as Jones gloating over the death of a climate change skeptic. Others offer signs of misconduct, with Jones appearing to carry out a campaign to remove climate skeptics from peer review boards. The emails also show Jones discussing how he and researchers under him purposefully altered data to make warming trends seem greater -- what seems to be academic fraud.
The information in the emails has not been confirmed or denied, but the center has confirmed a leak occurred and that it is investigating the matter. On Monday Jones announced via a
that he would be stepping down as director while the investigations runs its course. He says he still stands by his center's research, though, including his own.
The University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Edward Acton supported Jones' decision to step down. Jones said the move was necessary for the CRU to "[continue] its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible."
Supporters of warming have sought to minimize the results. While they have not necessarily questioned the authenticity of the leaked archive, they argue that the leak is a smear campaign. Jones has personally endorsed this theory, writing, "One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks."
The leak indeed offers unfortunate tidings for proponents of climate change legislation. With the U.S. preparing to commit to
unprecedented and expensive emissions reductions
at the UN Copenhagen global warming talks, members of the U.S. government are now voicing doubts.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Wisc.-R, is quoted as saying the emails "read more like scientific fascism than scientific process." His colleague Rep. Ed Markey, Mass.-D, however complains that such criticism is merely a distraction from the "catastrophic threat to our planet."
Jones, at the center of the scandal, has made a comment that indicates the emails may be valid. He admitted in a post that the emails "do not read well", but dismisses claims of data alteration and misconduct as mere "confusion".
A close supporter of Jones, Lord Stern, author of the U.K.'s 2006 Stern Report, on Tuesday looked to help the embattled climate change movement by speaking out on his views. He says that the evidence of manmade warming is "overwhelming". He added that all views on the topic should be heard, but that the opinions of warming skeptics might not be valid views in his estimation. He called the skeptics "muddled and confused".
Confusion indeed seems afoot, but perhaps more at the CRU than anyplace else. It should be noted that some researchers appear in the released emails to have not cooperated with Jones' campaign and risked their jobs to preserve their academic integrity.
Kevin Trenberth was among those who refused to participate and questioned the certainty of the CRU's conclusions on manmade warming.
The CRU has moved to silence one point of criticism. It has agreed to publish missing land surface temperatures shortly. The research center says that 95 percent of its data has been publicly available for "several years". The center says that its conclusions that man is responsible for warming "correlate well to those of other scientists based on the separate data sets held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)."
It is apt that the CRU's release mentions America's GISS as the CRU warming scandal closely mirrors the controversy over data alterations by
Dr. James Hansen director of NASA's
Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)
. Dr. Hansen's data was shown to have errors both in
which exaggerated warming trends.
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12/3/2009 9:23:12 AM
I have seen so many posts repeating the same blather about science. WAY too many people keep saying science proves this or does not prove that . . .. Any first year college student can tell you that SCIENCE DOES NOT PROVE ANYTHING . . . it merely shows likelihood beyond a reasonable doubt. In mathematics proofs are possible, science is observation AND mathematics. All people are entitled to their opinions and beliefs - "skeptics" and non-skeptics alike; but opinion and belief are not science. If we all keep these things separate, maybe we will finally get to the truth of the matter. The suggestion that fifty or sixty scientists at one college in one country have possibly been dishonest does not negate the thousands of other scientists' research . . . any more than several hundred "skeptics" misrepresenting facts with "professional" opinions or "scientific beliefs". If a person wants to post something and have credibility, they need to skip the theatrics and discuss the science.
12/3/2009 3:33:09 PM
The problem here is that the emails finally prove beyond any doubt what has been suspected about climate scientists all along; not all of them are noble, selfless servants of science in the manner in which you describe. Instead, they're acting out of the self interest of their careers and reputations in some cases. That global warming is a boon to these peoples careers only if it is true is the first mark against their credibility.
A first year student you mention might not be fully aware of it, but any graduate in a field that uses statistical tools would be aware that it's not impossible to selectively study or outright manipulate data in just the right way to get a pre-determined result. Thats the second strike against their credibility, as these emails prove they've been dishonest with their handling of data and statistics.
Strike three is that people who are guilty of all of the above scientific and personal indignities have also had a hand in apparently placing like-minded people on peer-review boards of journals and edging out or marginalizing individuals with actual integrity. This corrupts the process for all the hundreds or thousands of scientists that actually may be honest, and makes the whole problem systemic from the top down.
So unfortunately, its not possible to talk only of the science and the data, because Hansen has proven the data could be false and these emails have proven the statistical methods used could also be misleading. Why has such corruption taken place? Well, thats where politics and psychology come in.
12/4/2009 2:02:49 PM
I'm not sure the word "prove" is interpreted the same by all (in the dictionary it has at least 9 meanings listed). That makes things really confusing and makes it easy to obfuscate the word and what it refers to.The emails logically speaking, prove exactly nothing. They may suggest just about anything. They are disturbing - but they "prove" nothing. And furthermore, even if global climate change is non existent, and all of the pollutants like mercury, ozone, PAH's, total petroleum hydrocarbons, sulfur, nitrites and nitrates, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide are absolutely harmless (a preposterous assumption - if you make that assumption you are truly insane) , that does not change the fact that we as a country are held hostage by oil-rich unstable nations, most of who do not like us (this is fact and needs no proof), and there is a finite amount of fossil fuel left (when China and India get into their full development we will see fossil fuel disappear very quickly). Oil companies are so wealthy they control most of the world, and when we run out we will be REALLY in big trouble. We are, in effect, fighting over where to hook a fire hose while the rest of the town burns down. The real issue is energy independence and finding and using new sources of renewable energy, and maintaining sources of non-polluted water. Let's pay scientists to do those things. If addressing climate change goes along with that then so much the better, because no matter if climate change is caused by people, or influenced by people, or not we will some day soon, run out of fossil fuel and at that point proving anything about emails or scientists will be a mute point, we (our children) will be hungry, cold or miserably hot, and suffering.
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